It’s Only a Matter of Time Before Chikungunya Hits the US

Rising risk of chikungunya virus in the US
As more and more imported cases of chikungunya show up in the US, official warn it’s just a matter of time before the first case of stateside chikungunya appears. Currently all confirmed cases of the virus have been brought in by individuals who have traveled to areas where the disease is common, such as the Caribbean. While it could be difficult for the disease to start to spread in the US, it’s possible. Officials say it will reach the US at some point in the future, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if there is a confirmed transmission from a mosquito to a person in the US by the end of this summer. This is because if someone returns with the disease and a mosquito feeds on that person, that mosquito can pass the disease onto others. If this happens, the disease may be able to establish a foothold here, and it could become a major health issue in the US.

The disease has already been confirmed to have been imported to the following states from those who traveled abroad:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Indiana
  • Florida
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee (suspected)
  • Virginia
  • Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

The disease has swept across the Caribbean, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 17 different Caribbean countries which have recorded outbreaks of the disease as of June 4, 2014. There have been over 135,000 confirmed and suspected cases in the Caribbean according to the Caribbean Public Health Agency, but the number could be much higher, since many cases likely have not been reported. The largest outbreak currently has its roots in the Dominican Republic. Officials from the World Health Organization expect the disease will continue to flourish in these areas for the rest of the summer, as more mosquitoes are able to breed in standing water, which is common in many Caribbean nations.

Due to the widespread outbreak in the Caribbean, the CDC is warning travelers to this area to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Anyone who does gets bitten and begins to suffer from fever, headaches, joint pain, joint swelling, muscle pain or rashes (common symptoms of those who contract chikungunya) a few days later should immediately contact their doctor. The disease is rarely fatal, but can cause long-lasting severe symptoms that can inhibit quality of life. It can even be debilitating for some period of time as a person recovers. There currently is no vaccine for the disease, but medication can be given to help with high fevers.

(Photo courtesy of James Jordan)

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One Response to It’s Only a Matter of Time Before Chikungunya Hits the US

  1. faith says:

    I have a friend that got this who lives in Haiti. It doesn’t sound like it’s fun to get and you can miss weeks of work as you recover. I hope it doesn’t reach the US

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